PROVIDING a basic income for Scottish citizens could help to vastly reduce poverty and allow people to fully participate in society, MSPs have heard.

A steering group has been set up to assess the feasibility of introducing pilots for a Citizens Basic Income (CBI).

The group has suggested introducing a CBI set at two levels, with a lower rate more closely aligned to the current level set for benefit payments.

A higher rate would be based on the minimum income standard produced by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. It has proposed £120.48, £213.59 and £195.90 a week for people aged up to 15-years-old, 16 years to pension age and above pension age respectively.

The second, lower, level of payment would be more closely aligned with current benefit entitlements. This would be £84.54, £57.90, £73.10 and £167.25 for those aged up to 19-years-old, those between 20 and 24-years-old, 25-years-old to pension age, and pension age respectively.

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Speaking at Holyrood’s Social Security Committee yesterday, Gerry McCartney, a consultant in public health medicine for NHS Health Scotland and part of the steering group, said the rate would help people to participate fully in society.

“It’s not just about being able to feed your family and clothe yourself, it’s also about the ability to participate in social activities and be a full member of society, which is quite a common definition of poverty,” he said.

“So by trying to peg the higher rate against the minimum income standard, we would hope to vastly reduce poverty if it were to be piloted or implemented.”

McCartney also told MSPs a pilot scheme could be used to assess the impact of CBI across different communities in Scotland, following recommendations made by the steering group in its interim report.

“One of the questions that has come up in the interim report is whether there would be interest in piloting in both an urban and a rural area, and in a deprived and a less deprived area,” he said.

“Obviously it would be possible to get a kind of compromise area with moderate levels of all of those different factors.

“But to get to community level effects, which is something we’re quite interested in – so this potential for volunteering and social capital and other factors to arise from a CBI being implemented – we would want natural communities to be part of the pilot.”